Wine First! (Understanding Great­Big­

Team Great Big Reds puts the wine first. Here’s what we mean by that: we’re looking for Great Big Reds that are great to drink on their own. We want to sit down — before a meal, at a meal, after a meal, or with no meal in sight — and have a glass of wine that has so much flavor on its own that it’s worth writing home about… or writing a blog post about… or telling the story to future generations and passing it on to their children.

Example: We were having lunch in London at a Terence Conran restaurant called Blueprint Cafe, above the Design Museum. We ordered a bottle of Jester shiraz. The flavor was good, the label was attractive — as if they cared about their wine. As we drank our first toast, there was a buzz among the staff, and everything stopped while the Tower Bridge was drawn up. To us, it seemed perfectly normal that a draw bridge would draw, but apparently it’s somewhat rare for the Tower Bridge. The next time we were in London, at the Blueprint Cafe again for lunch, we tried Rubus Shiraz. The label was red back then. My, but we enjoyed that first toast. We still love Rubus Shiraz. And what do you know, but the bridge went up again. In fact, the next time we were in London, we stopped at an archaeology educational event by the Tower of London, and what do you know, the bridge goes up again. We went to Blueprint Cafe for lunch, but they were closed for a private event. We had an entirely adequate lunch somewhere else, but the wine was not memorable.

In Barcelona…waiters kept warning us that they would have too much flavor. Too much flavor? Bring it on!

Here’s the alternative: you drink “food friendly” wine, wine that goes well with anything that might be on the menu. Think: tempranillo. In Barcelona restaurants we kept asking for full-bodied wines, and waiters kept warning us that they would have too much flavor. Too much flavor? Bring it on!

But it’s absolutely true that Great Big Reds can overwhelm subtle foods. Our answer: give us Great Big Reds and give us food that has enough flavor to match. OK, eating steak frites all the time is not really a great idea, but spicy foods can go well with Great Big Reds. Guess what? We like spicy food. Heh, we like our steak “au poivre”, too.

Another answer: alternate. Even with sushi, shall I not enjoy a Great Big Red before the food arrives? And during the meal, I can simply alternate between eating great sushi and drink great wine. Heh: spiced-up sushi rolls can go great with Great Big Reds.

Another approach: Champagne is an honorary Great Big Red. One could drink champagne before a meal, have a food-friendly wine that a sommelier would say exactly suits whatever it is that you are eating, and after dinner have port.

Another scenario: a hot day, just home from work. Madelleine Puckette gives the standard answer: “Red wine in the summer is about as palatable as warm mayonnaise.” Team Great Big Reds has three other answers. 1) Come home, have a big glass of sparkling water, take a shower, and enjoy a glass of big red wine on your couch in the cool air conditioning. 2) Put your Great Big Wine in the refrigerator(!!). Frosty-cold tannins don’t bite as much, and you still get more flavor than a white wine would give you. 3) Champagnes and cavas (!!) are honorary Great Big Reds… start with cold sparkles and see if you’re ready for reds after.

Ultimately, we think of it this way: life is short and you only get to drink so many glasses of wine. We want to make sure that as many glasses as possible are Great Big Reds.

If that seems logical to you, welcome to Great Big Reds.